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Rector response: The status of the university's climate effort

Climate — Management guarantees that the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) takes the growth of CO2 emissions from air travel seriously, and will take a closer look at how our international partners are working with this challenge, writes Rector in an open reply to Jens Friis Lund.

Jens Friis Lund states, in a featured comment in the University Post, that the UCPH focus on climate change is a ‘flying elephant in the room’.

Management shares his concern about the major climate challenges that the world is facing. The universities’ most important role is to conduct research into, and to develop solutions that contribute to, a full-scale conversion to sustainability that will affect all parts of society. In Strategy 2023, we focus on the sustainable development goals, and as a part of this, climate action.

UCPH has reduced its CO2 emissions by 63 per cent per full-time equivalent since 2006

This said, we have, as a university, a clear responsibility to reduce our own environmental and climate impact. UCPH has clear energy and climate targets in our Green Campus 2020 strategy, and we are well underway..

We have reduced our CO2 emissions by 63 per cent FTE since 2006, and are close to reaching the 2020 target of a 65 per cent reduction. In absolute numbers in 2017, the university has halved its CO2 emissions. This result is notable among international universities, but we will continue our efforts.

Jens Friis Lund writes that the UCPH results have been primarily achieved through increasing the efficiency of buildings and technology, and through a more energy-efficient behaviour. This has been where we have been able to reap the greatest benefits, and while doing so we have made significant savings on our energy bills.

Growing CO2 emissions from air travel is a global challenge, and travelling activity in an increasingly international academic community, contributes to this growth. At UCPH, CO2 emissions from air travel takes up an increasing share of the total CO2 emissions. They currently account for around 25 per cent of total emissions.

On the part of management, we can urge researchers to use trains. But there must be sufficient freedom for the individual researcher to self-administer time and research budgets, so that it makes the most sense
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This is a huge challenge which UCPH is trying to learn more about together with other international universities, including the IARU alliance. The experience gained from the IARU cooperation shows that there are both institutional, cultural and technical challenges, and often in combination.

Fortunately, many researchers wish to travel less.

The increased use of virtual communication solutions is definitely a part of the answer as technologies are improved. For 1-on-1 meetings and for other small forums, Skype is frequently used by most people. But at conferences, larger networks, and meetings, this immediately becomes far more difficult in practice. Virtual communication solutions are available to different extents in the faculties and departments. Both the supply of, and access to, facilities can be optimised in many places and with a joint IT unit at UCPH going forward, we have better opportunities.

Increased use of virtual communication solutions is definitely part of the answer

On the part of management, we can urge researchers to use trains. But there must be sufficient freedom for the individual researcher to self-administer time and research budgets so that it makes the most sense.

We guarantee that UCPH takes the growth in CO2 emissions from air travel seriously, and we will take a closer look at how our international partners are working with this challenge.. On this background, we will decide how UCPH best and most effectively can contribute..

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